3D Printed Micro Battery Powers and Cools ICs

March 21, 2017 by Jeff Shepard

Researchers at ETH Zurich and IBM Research Zurich have built a new type of tiny redox flow battery that will supply tightly packed electronic components with energy, while also dissipating the heat they produce. The redox flow battery is only 1.5-millimeters thick and would allow computer chip stacks (where a stack consists of individual chips stacked on top of each other to save space and energy) to be supplied with electrical power and cooled at the same time by such integrated flow batteries. Stacks would see the thin redox battery micro-cell being placed between the chips, with the cells handling both powering and cooling the chip.

"The chips are effectively operated with a liquid fuel and produce their own electricity," says Dimos Poulikakos, Professor of Thermodynamics at ETH Zurich.

The new micro-battery also reaches a record-high in terms of output for its size, producing 1.4 Watts per square centimeter of battery surface. Even after taking into account the power needed to pump the liquid electrolytes to the battery, the cell still produced a net output of 1 Watt per square centimeter.

"We are the first scientists to build such a small flow battery so as to combine energy supply and cooling," says Julian Marschewski, a doctoral student in Poulikakos' group.

According to the scientists, the biggest challenge of building the micro redox flow batteries was to build them in such a way that allowed the electrolytes to flow as efficiently as possible while simultaneously keeping the pumping power as low as possible.

Marschewski and his colleagues turned to 3D-printing technology to solve the problem, building a polymer channel system to press the electrolyte liquid into the porous electrode layer as efficiently as possible.